Cert: 15A

La Syndicaliste (The Sitting Duck)

La Syndicaliste tells the extraordinary real-life story of Irish woman Maureen Kearney (Isabelle Huppert), a senior trade union representative in a French multinational nuclear powerhouse.

She became a whistleblower, denouncing top-secret deals that shook the French nuclear sector. She fought government ministers and industry leaders, tooth and nail to bring the scandal to light and to defend more than 50,000 jobs…

Her life was turned upside down when she was violently assaulted in her own home - The investigation is carried out under pressure: the subject is sensitive. Suddenly, new elements create doubt in the minds of the investigators. At first a victim, Maureen becomes a suspect. She had no choice but to fight an arduous legal battle to clear her name.

Based on a non-fiction book by journalist Caroline Michel-Aguirre, La Syndicaliste is a gripping corporate and political thriller. Maureen Kearney’s story is one that deserves to be told, and here the great Isabelle Huppert elegantly channels her real-life counterpart’s steely resolve.

Director: Jean-Paul Salomé

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Grégory Gadebois, François-Xavier Demaison, Marina Foïs

Directors notes:

When I read Caroline Michel-Aguirre’s essay La Syndicaliste, I immediately felt the cinematographic potential of this incredible investigation set in the world of nuclear power and politics. And the film naturally fell into the tradition of the great paranoid thrillers of which I am particularly fond. The chilling story of Maureen Kearney not only shines a light on some shadowy areas of the high spheres of power – it is a drama that frightens through its clinical approach to themes as current and burning as the place of women in the spheres of power; the importance granted to their speech; and the assumption of their madness and of their manipulative nature. The Kearney affair is the story of a whistleblower as much as it is the story of a woman in a world of men unaccustomed to seeing women risk whatever it takes to attack those at the top

Maureen Kearney is not a femme fatale: she is a mother and a wife like those we meet every day, an employee like so many others. However, she will become the woman that the virile old guard of French industry, clinging to its interests and its self-dealings, must eliminate. Because she is a respectable woman, she will have to suffer the shame of not being believed, of always being reduced to her insignificance, of enduring aspersions on her integrity, of being reduced to the dramas that marked her life and that are just so many intimate wounds her enemies can use to discredit her in the eyes of her close relations and of the law.

Beyond its form, which will be inspired by American political thrillers such as All the President’s Men, Klute, and more recently Revelations, it is first and foremost a fundamentally political film that we wish to deliver, a truer-than-life drama about the workings of power and its inexorable violence against those who attempt to rattle it.

This feature allows me to pursue my collaboration with Isabelle Huppert, but on a completely different register this time. And always with the will to have her embody a character anchored in reality and with which the spectator can easily identify.


Festivals

Venice Film Festival, 2022

Dublin International Film Festival, 2023

‘A bravura performance from Isabelle Huppert’

Eye for Film

‘Maureen Kearney is] played with an electric stillness by the great Isabelle Huppert’

Deadline
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